Antioch celebrates 150th anniversary of incorporation in 1872 as county’s first city Sunday

Mayor Lamar Thorpe, holding the proclamation honoring the City’s Sesquicentennial of Incorporation, is joined by other Antioch council members and elected officials on Sunday, Feb. 6, the actual 150th anniversary of the incorporation. Photos (unless otherwise indicated) by Allen D. Payton

Thorpe uses opportunity to do a little campaigning at end of speech

An audience of about 50 people enjoyed the City of Antioch Sesquicentennial of Incorporation ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022.

By Allen D. Payton

During a ceremony on a clear, sunny afternoon current and former Antioch officials, community leaders and residents celebrated the 150th anniversary, or Sesquicentennial of the City’s incorporation on the actual date it occurred on Feb. 6 in 1872. It marked the official formation of the first city in Contra Costa County, as the Board of Supervisors approved Antioch’s Articles of Incorporation that day. (See related article)

The event was held in front of the Birthplace of Antioch monument at the foot of F Street, overlooking the river and near the BNSF rail line.

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica speaks mentioning the City’s Centennial event in 1972.

Antioch Parks and Recreation Director Brad Helfenberger welcomed the audience. Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica spoke, thanking those in attendance, and offering his memories of the city during his life, including the celebration of the City’s Centennial in 1972.

The audience also heard brief speeches from those who represent the City, including current county Supervisor Federal Glover, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier and staff representatives of Supervisor Diane Burgis, State Senator Steve Glazer and Congressman Jerry McNerney, honoring the City’s anniversary. DeSaulnier, Glazer’s and McNerney’s staff presented the council members with proclamations honoring the City’s achievement. The Board of Supervisors honored the City’s Sesquicentennial anniversary with a proclamation at their meeting on Feb. 1. (See related article)

During Glover’s speech, a train carrying rolls of steel and chemicals heading east to the U.S. Steel plant in Pittsburg passed by, which he said was a good thing and an example of the economic strength of Antioch and East County, which helped grow the town, first established in 1849 as Smith’s Landing.

Joy Motts, president of Celebrate Antioch Foundation and leader of the Sesquicentennial Committee shares about this year’s events.

He pointed out that February is Black History Month and mentioned the late, former Antioch Councilman Reggie Moore who was the city’s first African-American member, then spoke of former Mayor Wade Harper, who was in attendance, as the city’s first African-American mayor, and District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson, who was the city’s first African-American female member of the council.

Joy Motts, president of Celebrate Antioch Foundation, the City’s partner in organizing this year’s celebration, spoke about the other events planned for throughout the year, highlighting the Independence Day celebration, which is the birthday of the renaming of the community to Antioch during the July 4th picnic in 1851.

City Clerk Ellie Householder reads the proclamation.

Proclamation Adopted, Read and Signed

The proclamation celebrating the City’s Sesquicentennial and providing the history of the community, was then read by City Clerk Ellie Householder, as Mayor Lamar Thorpe was not yet in attendance. It was adopted by the Antioch City Council on Friday, Feb. 4 on a 3-0-2 vote, as both Barbanica and District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker were absent. (See related article)

About 30 minutes into the event, Thorpe arrived and signed the proclamation, then apologized for his tardiness saying he was at the opening of a local church in their new building, and that it was appropriate since Antioch was named for the city in Syria, “where the followers of Jesus Christ were first called Christians. So, I thought that was a special honor and I didn’t want to miss that. I think that’s important, and it was important for them,” he said. “I am excited to be here.”

During his speech the mayor said, “I’m so excited to be the mayor during this important year. We’ve come a long way as a city. 150 years ago, the diversity that we see in this crowd, here today did not exist. As time has passed, we’re at a time where, we for the first time we have the first majority African-American council in the city’s history. A majority woman city council in the city’s history, and that’s been for some time.”

Supervisor Federal Glover speaks as a freight train heads west to Pittsburg temporarily interrupting him.

“As we continue for the next 150 years, it’s important to understand, as these changes occur, there’s always going to be some level of conflict, as that’s the process of maturation,” he continued. “It means we’re growing up as a city. We’re not the same city that we were 10 years ago when I moved here. We’re not the same city that we were when folks who grew up are. We’re a different city.”

“But it’s all good. It’s all good. Because as we continue to be a more progressive, open-minded city, more people come here,” the mayor said. “We continue to be the fastest growing city in the Bay Area. We are now one of the most racially diverse cities in the San Francisco Bay Area, certainly ethnically diverse. So, there’s a lot of heritage and experiences that we’re proud of.”

“A lot of us recognize the importance of our history, so I just want to share a few things that we will be doing in the City of Antioch,” Thorpe said. He then shared about the council’s plans to restore the Hard House, on W. 1st Street, the home of the first mayor of Antioch, Roswell Butler Hard, where the meetings for the first city council were held.

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier spoke to the audience before presenting a proclamation honoring the City’s achievement.

“The Hard House has sat empty for a long, long time,” The history of this city should not stay empty in some building,” he said to applause from the crowd. Thorpe reiterated that the council’s “vision, right now is for council offices, maybe on the second floor, and community space on the first floor, to ensure that the community has access. So, we want to restore that.”

Thorpe then spoke of the Antioch (Beede) Lumber Company yard, the empty lot bordered by W. 2nd, W. 3rd and E Streets and the council’s commitment “to ensure that remains a public space recognizing our history,” to an even greater applause.

Thorpe then turned it into a campaign speech, as he faces possible recall.

“This council, my colleagues, myself, we are committed to, of course, preserving history. But we’re also committed to ensuring that the change that is occurring now, continues,” he stated. “And our foot is on the pedal, and we’re not stopping. It doesn’t matter what the naysayers have to say. I will be here for another three years.” (See video)

Mayor Thorpe signs the proclamation.

Several photos were taken of Thorpe holding the proclamation, with current council members, all but District 1 Council Tamisha Torres-Walker who was not in attendance and elected officials, Sesquicentennial Committee and Antioch Historical Society leaders, former mayors and council members, and with city staff.

Thorpe later said a framed copy of the proclamation will be given to the Antioch Historical Society for their museum and another will be framed for City Hall.

A reception was then held at the Antioch Senior Center nearby, in which historic photos of the city and copies of the city council’s first minutes and By-Laws, adopted March 14, 1872, were on display. Sesquicentennial calendars were sold for $20 each as a fundraiser to support this year’s activities and hors d’oeuvres were served, catered by Girard’s Catering owned by Antioch resident Linda Jane. Antioch’s First Bylaws.March 14, 1872

Unfortunately, a copy of the City’s Articles of Incorporation could not be located in the City Clerk’s office prior to the event. But the search for a copy will continue and added here, once they are.

Torres-Walker was asked the reason for her absence. She responded simply, “I was with family.”

Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover who represents a portion of Antioch was joined by members of the Antioch City Council, Barbanica, Ogorchock and Wilson, and a representative of Supervisor Diane Burgis, who represents the other portion of the city, with a plaque honoring the City’s Sesquicentennial.

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier who represents portions of Antioch in the U.S. House of Representatives is joined by three members of the Antioch City Council, as he holds a Congressional proclamation honoring the City’s Sesquicentennial.

Representatives of Celebrate Antioch Foundation and the Antioch Historical Society join Mayor Thorpe for a photo with the City Council’s proclamation.

Former Antioch Mayors Wade Harper (second from left), Don Freitas and Mary Rocha, and former Mayor Pro Tems Joy Motts (left) and Allen Payton (right), join Mayor Thorpe with the City Council’s proclamation.

Antioch City staff leadership, Interim Police Chief Tony Morefield, Parks and Recreation Director Brad Helfenberger, Interim City Manager Con Johnson and Assistant City Manager Rosanna Bayon Moore, join Mayor Thorpe with the signed Sesquicentennial proclamation approved by the City Council.

Birthplace of Antioch Marker at the foot of F Street.

Please check back later for any updates to this report.

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